For years, my parents drove all the way from Illinois to spend Christmas Eve at our home in Northern Virginia. We would spend our day making homemade candy, playing games, enjoying wine and hors de oeuvres, and then, once my three sons had listened to a Christmas bedtime story and settled into bed, my Mom and I would play Santa Claus. But as my parents have aged and winters have been more treacherous at times, we now find ourselves alone on Christmas Eve, usually visiting Illinois after Christmas. At first it seemed impossible to imagine Christmas without my Mom and Dad. And Christmas Eve … wow, what a letdown. But then I realized that this was one of many changes to come, and that I would need to come up with a new attitude and some new traditions. Change is inevitable. We can either languish over what was or create new traditions to enjoy and carry forward.
My husband never seemed interested in taking on the Santa role. He seemed quite content to leave the wrapping and ribboning to my mother and me. Admittedly, I came to the conclusion that he just didn’t care that much about Christmas Eve, the preparations … or the Christmas morning hubbub. I knew that holidays in his family had been more stressful than in mine, so I chalked his lack of participation up to anxiety and disinterest. I had no idea how wrong I was.
So many years had passed with my mom and me laughing over coffee or wine (depending upon the hour) and curling ribbon, reminiscing over Christmases past, and plotting stocking gifts and surprises. My father had joined in as well, helping to build certain toys, and, one year, using his expertise and creativity to turn a “doll house” into the more masculine play house that my sons had requested.
I never realized that through each holiday, as my husband watched movies or perused Facebook, he was actually stepping aside to allow my parents and me to spend the time we missed together throughout each year. He let us “take over,” to a certain extent, and make the holidays just as we had always celebrated. I thought he didn’t care … but he actually cared enough to give us control.
So, as that first fateful Christmas closed in and I felt lonely for my parents and unsure how I would “pull it all off” alone, my husband offered his help.
I was shocked at the suggestion … he wasn’t disinterested, after all. And then he opened up and explained that it wasn’t that he didn’t care. It wasn’t disinterest or laziness. He had thought for all of these years that it was important to me to celebrate Christmas with my parents in the way that we always had, and he was willing to part with his personal traditions and adopt ours. His surprise Christmas gift to me for all of these years was acquiescence, a trait unnatural to his character and one that I had missed. I was completely shocked and humbled. I had misunderstood and underestimated my husband. I had judged him harshly. And he hadn’t held a grudge or judged me in return. That’s when it hit me that we two needed to make Christmas Eve our personal fun experience. What had been was wonderful but we were heading out on our own now. We needed to remake our own traditions and playing Santa could be fun … and sexy even.
“Life evolves and things change. Ultimately, we can choose to create our happiness, build our traditions, make memories and flourish in spite of this.”
That Christmas Eve, I told my husband that he was Santa and I was his sexy helper elf. He looked skeptical. But when I emerged from the guest room with a bag of gifts, wearing sexy new lingerie, he seemed to quickly reframe his role. We laughed, kissed, wrapped gifts and imagined the kids’ reactions. And then “Mommy” was seen “kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe that night…”
Life evolves and things change. Ultimately, we can choose to create our happiness, build our traditions, make memories and flourish in spite of this. This year, for instance, will be our first year with no believers in the house. This seems odd and impossible … no cookies engulfed and milk rings left on the counter to reinforce the charade. But I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful holiday. “Santa” and I will still find a way to make the holidays magical and he and I may actually enjoy a reprieve from keeping everything secret. Perhaps this year will offer more time for mistletoe kisses…
GWEN HOPKINS-Sadowski is the Managing Member of High-Heeled Houses, LLC. She loves to read, write, run, drink wine, garden, and spoil her kids and husband.